The American Way: SPANISH EYES
by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
If today was not the saddest in my life, it doesn't have much compe= tition.
My wife left me, maybe for good, maybe not, but it was a day that found = me trying not weep in public, and failing miserably in private.It was a day= when Cat Stevens' "Wild World" and Elvis's "Spanish Eyes" and the other so= ngs queued up on Napster rang with the resonance of music fora funeral.
We fought over two things: whether we'd have a television in the house, = and whether I'd run for mayor. But in the end, giving in on both wouldn't w= ork; she needed space. I need Earth, and she is it.
We spent four and half hours talking at Starbuck's about television and = politics and the car and my emotional maturity. We seemed to veer in and ou= t of agreement, and because we spoke in Spanish I wasn't always exactly sur= e what was being said. She may have understood me that well, either.
It started on Wednesday when she worke me with a kiss about 7 a.m. and t= old me she had a surprise: someone had given her a tv set. As I had before,= I told her others had offered them to me, but I didn't want one in the hou= se. Later, I dropped her off at work and then went up to Sunland, a communi= ty of junkyards in the northeast part of the San Fernando Valley.
It was a long and difficult day. I went into one auto dismantler and neg= otiated a price of $100 for the fender and bumper I needed after I wrecked = my car in Hollywood about 9 days ago. When I finally got the parts off the = car the price more than doubled; the Latino I was talking to doubled the pr= ice when his Iranian bosses walked in. Actually, he increased them to $225,= more than half. I had little choice, and settled for $190.
Then I went across the street and met two marvelous Latinos who said the= y'd charge me $70 to change the bumber and the fender. One of them, Jose, w= orked for more than four hours to bang out the dents, replace the bashed-in= fender with a new one and make the new beat up-bumper fit where the old be= nt-up bumper was. It was a long, tedious, difficult job. At one point he ha= d to go to a next-door junkyard, climb into a mountain of rusting hulks, an= d pull out a couple of hard-to-find cables for the fender light and the bli= nker ($10). A bulb broke off in his hand. At the end of the day I didn't ha= ve the heart to pay them $70; I gave them $100 and still felt like I'd gott= en a deal.
Then I scoured the City of San Fernando for a guy to do the alignment. I= t was after 7 when I found the only one in San Fernando that stays open so = late, a guy with a big kid and a couple of lifts where he works from dawn t= o way past dusk. He charged me $30 for the alignment and found out my frame= -- the beam running crosswide that supports the axle assembly -- was bent = inward by the wall and steel column I'd hit.
But he did the alignment anyway, promising it would be much better, and = I made myself buy a new tire to replace the plugged piece of junk I'd gotte= n from another guy who'd bought and put in the used axle, tie rod and rack = and pinion for me for $326. I showed up about three hours late to pick up m= y wife at the Beverly Hills home she cleans each day and she was gone. I dr= ove back to our home in Hollywood and parked our newly repaired, much safer= car in the driveway. I came in the door and a television set was on the ta= ble near the middle of the room.
I have lived now for 34 years without having a television in my home, an= d I have resisted a thousand blandishments and offers to get me to have one= . I don't mind watching television at someone else's house, and I watched= a lot during the Florida election caper in Beverly Hills, but I don't want= to watch it in my house. I hate the ads, the constant interruptions, the i= nane laugh tracks, the way the announcers think they have to explain every = little thing that happens, the utterly banal and stupid tone of sitcoms -- = lot of things. Most of all I hate it because it steals from me my time for = people, for reading and for writing to you.
I didn't stop to think much. It was like a giant ugly spider had invaded= my home. I went and unplugged it, picked it up -- and suddenly my wife's 2= 3-year-old daugher, who is here to visit her from Peru, screamed "Leave it = there, Joe!" and smashed her coffee cup on the floor to emphasize the point= . I told her she could break anything she wanted, and I started with the = tv toward the door. My wife tried to stop me. I brushed past her and walked= out with it and walked to the car with it, opened the car and put in the t= runk.
Inside, they had already started to pack. I didn't try to stop them. Clo= thes and suitcases in hand, they headed out the door and drove away in the = car.
Only then did I remember the 100 signatures on the nominating petitions = I must turn in to be a candidate for mayor. They were in the car, along wit= h a priceless bit of journalism Al Martinez wrote last Sunday on the front = page of the L.A. Times Metro section: "... [Online journalist Joe Sh= ea may shake things up, but other than that we have just the usual suspects= , a smattering of old pols and bunch of preening unknowns who couldn't get = their mother's vote if they dragged her in chains to the polling place."
For three days I waited. Saturday morning Mireya called. She wanted to m= eet somewhere to talk. I thought it was going well. I told her I would not = run for Mayor if she would not leave me. I offered not to run for Mayor if = she would not have to have a tv set. In the end I told her she could have a= tv and I would not run for Mayor if she would stay. But she needed space. = I need Earth. Once she left, I knew, something would irrecovably change.
We had a long talk about the price of our dreams. I told her how Mayor R= iordan of Los Angeles had lost three childrten, to suicide, anorexia and an= accident, before he became Mayor. I told her how Rudy Giuliani spiffed up = New York like nobody's business so he could sail into the Senate, and when = the day came, found out he had cancer. I told her how Bill Clinton had to r= un for president with his brother in jail for selling drugs, and how he had= to talk about the most intimate acts there are on national television in f= ront of his daughter and his wife and the world. I told her this because so= far, I had lost my wife and my car and my job, all in one week. I reminded= her that own brother was assassinated for his dreams. "Yes, that is the re= ason," she said.
I forgot that my own grandfather lost his w= ife in childbirth the year he was elected Sheriff of New York, and that his= father was thrown down a flight of stairs and killed in an election riot. = My Uncle Billy died young on dialysis, the only Republican elected in Manha= ttan in a half century. Tonight, I understand.
My wife is worried about her daughter, who has found a small lump in her= breast. She wanted my permission to take the car for a few days. I said I = would giver daughter and her a ride wherever they needed to go. That wouldn= 't do. I said that if she was going to leave me I wouldn't give her the car= . She was still going to leave. I drove her back to the house so she and = her daughter could pack in earnest. One funny thing was that they thought I= 'd thrown the tv away, and only found it in the car when they went shopping= a day or two later.
That was when I loaded a set of tunes I had on Napster. I had no idea wh= at they were until they started playing. It was Cat Stevens and his heartbr= eaking song about a couple breaking up: "If you're gonna leave, take goo= d care/Hope you'll meet a lot of nice friends out there/But remember there'= s a lot of bad, and beware/Baby, baby, it's a wild world." I bawled for= a second or two, and then the tears just ran.
I had to do something. She had to know how I felt. My mind opened and I = saw her through the walls and I said "I love you" and I heard her thoughts = say, "He loves me."
Then James Taylor started singing "You've got a friend..." and someone e= lse sang "Morning has risen/like the first morning" and Elvis starte= d in on "Spanish Eyes." I stood the whole time in the kitchen. I'd told her= that I would either give up my dreams to be with her or try to realize the= m if she left. She was leaving. It was time for me to run for Mayor.
I went out and picked up the petitions, and the car keys. She was standi= ng in the foyer outside the bedroom qand I went over to her and couldn't ge= t any words out. Finally I said "mi regalo," "my gift," but they were the o= nly words I could manage. She didn't want to take the keys; I threw them on= the couch. I picked up my clipboard and the petitions, and I kissed her go= odbye. "Sea machista," she said. "Be a man."
I wiped away my tears as I went down the lane to the sidewalk and t= he street. In the next six hours I talked to 700 people and got a hundred s= ignatures. I came home and there was a nice message from her and her daught= er on the phone. They hoped I was all right. I walked over to the computer = and there was a note there. I turned on the computer and looked at it. It s= aid "Bote el televisor. Esta en la basura."
"I threw out the television. It is in the garbage."